Archive | Politics

A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness

Just three years after Roe v. Wade passed, feminist writer Linda Bird Francke wrote about her abortion experience. Her story originally appeared under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” in The New York Times but was later published in a book of essays under her own name. Her experience and feelings afterward are still so very common today. In her own words: Continue Reading →

Jonathan Haidt: “Intersectionality aims for… an inflaming of tribal suspicions and hatreds”

Jonathan Haidt has a fascinating essay dealing with two kinds of identity politics—the good kind and the bad kind. The good kind is that espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I Have a Dream Speech.” The bad kind is intersectionality. Unfortunately, it’s the bad kind that dominates university campuses today. Haidt explains:

King’s speech is among the most famous in American history precisely because it framed our greatest moral failing as an opportunity for centripetal redemption. This is what I’m calling the good kind of identity politics.

Let us contrast King’s identity politics with the version taught in universities today. There is a new variant that has swept through the academy in the last five years. It is called intersectionality. The term and concept were presented in a 1989 essay by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at UCLA, who made the very reasonable point that a black woman’s experience in America is not captured by the summation of the black experience and the female experience. She analyzed a legal case in which black women were victims of discrimination at General Motors, even when the company could show that it hired plenty of blacks (in factory jobs dominated by men), and it hired plenty of women (in clerical jobs dominated by whites). So even though GM was found not guilty of discriminating against blacks or women, it ended up hiring hardly any black women. This is an excellent argument. What academic could oppose the claim that when analyzing a complex system, we must look at interaction effects, not just main effects?

But what happens when young people study intersectionality? In some majors, it’s woven into many courses. Students memorize diagrams showing matrices of privilege and oppression. It’s not just white privilege causing black oppression, and male privilege causing female oppression; its heterosexual vs. LGBTQ, able-bodied vs. disabled; young vs. old, attractive vs. unattractive, even fertile vs. infertile. Anything that a group has that is good or valued is seen as a kind of privilege, which causes a kind of oppression in those who don’t have it. A funny thing happens when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side of each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.

And here’s the strategically brilliant move made by intersectionality: all of the binary dimensions of oppression are said to be interlocking and overlapping. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups. This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists.

This means that on any campus where intersectionality thrives, conflict will be eternal, because no campus can eliminate all offense, all microaggressions, and all misunderstandings. This is why the use of shout-downs, intimidation, and even violence in response to words and ideas is most common at our most progressive universities, in the most progressive regions of the country. It’s schools such as Yale, Brown, and Middlebury in New England, and U.C. Berkeley, Evergreen, and Reed on the West Coast. Are those the places where oppression is worst, or are they the places where this new way of thinking is most widespread?…

Intersectionality aims for… an inflaming of tribal suspicions and hatreds, in order to stimulate anger and activism in students, in order to recruit them as fighters for the political mission of the professor. The identity politics taught on campus today is entirely different from that of Martin Luther King. It rejects America and American values. It does not speak of forgiveness or reconciliation. It is a massive centrifugal force, which is now seeping down into high schools, especially progressive private schools…

Students who major in departments that prioritize social justice over the disinterested pursuit of truth are given just one lens—power—and told to apply it to all situations. Everything is about power. Every situation is to be analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult, a fundamentalist religion, a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety, and intellectual impotence.

Read the rest here.

Are Christians crying wolf about mistreatment and marginalization?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian alleges that Christians are crying wolf with claims of marginalization and persecution and that those claims need to be vigorously challenged. Why have liberals failed to challenge them? She answers:

Why are we reluctant to challenge such claims? It’s the result of a tacit social contract, an uneasy truce after the 20th-century wars over science and the role of religion in the public sphere. According to this social contract, institutions outside the religious sphere will not use scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims that extend far beyond the walls of the church.

This paragraph is astonishing on a number of levels:

1. Allen-Ebrahimian claims there is a “tacit social contract” in which secularists will not use “scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs.” Really? I can hardly believe that she would make this claim. Has she read any of the contemporary debates between creationists, evolutionists, and intelligent design advocates? The writings of the new atheists? To be sure, each side can give as good as it gets. But to say that Christian belief has been free to operate without scientific critique is just incredible.

2. Without realizing it, Allen-Ebrahimian exemplifies the very reason conservative Christians are concerned about marginalization and mistreatment. She says that Christians are free to practice their belief within the walls of the church but that they dare not do so “beyond the walls of the church.” Right there is the problem. It’s the difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion. Freedom of worship relegates religious observance to the church house. Freedom of religion—our nation’s first freedom in the Bill of Rights—allows believers to practice their faith outside the walls of the church in their work, community, etc. So for example, if a Christian baker doesn’t want to participate in a gay wedding, freedom of religion says he shouldn’t be forced to do so. But the freedom of worship folks believe that he can bake cakes however he wants at church, but outside the church the state can use its coercive power to force him to violate his conscience and participate in gay weddings. It’s easy for Allen-Ebrahim to say “nothing to see here, move along.” She’s not the one facing public sanctions for believing what Christians have always believed about marriage.

3. Allen-Ebrahimian claims that Christians can believe what they want so long as “those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims.” This is staggering. Christianity is nothing if not a sweeping political claim. We believe that Jesus is Lord and that Caesar is not. That is why we sing at this time of year that he is “King of kings and Lord of lords and he shall reign forever and ever.” We don’t believe these words to be pie in the sky. We really do believe that our highest allegiance is to a crucified and raised Jewish man from Nazareth. We believe that he will judge the nations in righteousness, including the United States. We also believe that there will be sorrow for everyone who comes up short at that judgment. Those truths have sweeping implications for the way we live our lives now as citizens. And there are sweeping political implications for the way we view human dignity, justice, war, and a host of other public issues.

Christians aren’t crying wolf or being paranoid about the challenges to religious liberty that are increasing nationwide. They are happening whether Allen-Ebrahimian acknowledges them or not. And her wish to banish religious observance from the public square is precisely why we are concerned.

The big story from Alabama’s senatorial election is the absence of evangelical voters

In a column for RNS, Jonathan Merritt takes Albert Mohler to task for Mohler’s analysis of last night’s election results. He writes:

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appeared on CNN around 1 am to give conservative Christians credit for the controversial Republican’s defeat. “[Moore] lost because so many evangelicals didn’t show up. That’s the big story … what didn’t happen,” Mohler said.

But Mohler’s assertion flies in the face of the facts. Eight in 10 white evangelicals cast their vote yesterday for Moore, a man credibly accused of sexual misconduct with multiple underage women. That’s roughly the same number who one year ago voted for Donald Trump, a man credibly accused of sexual misconduct with several women who has also admitted to engaging in such behavior. (Additionally, the percentage of evangelicals who voted for a write-in candidate was roughly on par with the general electorate.)…

Mohler is a shrewd thinker and capable culture watcher, so I assume he must be referring to the evangelical share of the total electorate. White evangelical Christians comprised 44 percent of all voters yesterday, compared with 47 percent of voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections. But this tiny shift, which The Washington Post referred to as “slight signs of slippage,” is nothing to crow about.

I agree that there is nothing to “crow” about, and thankfully nobody (including Mohler) is doing that. And I would agree that certain self-identified evangelicals do have some soul-searching to do.

Having said that, Merritt has misunderstood the significance of these numbers and as a result has come to some erroneous conclusions about evangelical involvement in yesterday’s election. Merritt says that the white evangelical turn-out yesterday was only a “tiny shift” from previous elections. But he is comparing apples to oranges. The shift from 47% to 44% represents percentages of two totally different voter turn-outs.

The total vote yesterday was a fraction of what it was in previous election years. Yesterday 1,344,406 people voted in the Alabama senatorial election. According to exit polls, 44% of those votes were cast by evangelicals, which comes out to about 591,539 votes. Moore got about 80% of those votes bringing his total evangelical support to about 473,231 votes.

That means that out of 1.8 million adult evangelicals in Alabama, only 26% of them voted for Roy Moore last night. In previous elections (2008 and 2012), evangelicals were about 47% of 2 million voters in Alabama. As David French has observed, that means that about 350,000 fewer evangelicals turned out for this election than turned-out in previous elections. That is more than the difference in this election. The evangelical absence from this election more than accounts for Doug Jones margin of victory. RNS‘s own report earlier today confirms this and contradicts Merritt’s narrative:

White evangelicals were less motivated to go to the polls than other voters (black and white), and those that did were less likely to vote GOP than in 2012. My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that had they turned out and voted the way they did then, Moore would have won by 2-3 percentage points instead of losing by 1.5.

Lyman Stone’s analysis comes to the same conclusion as this one. He writes,

Many commentators are going to position Moore’s defeat as some kind of big let-down for evangelicals. It isn’t. More than 60 percent of the white evangelical adults in Alabama did not cast a vote for Moore.

True, very few voted for Jones, perhaps because Jones supports abortion, which must of us adult white evangelicals consider to be murder. But white evangelical turnout fell from nearly 75 percent in the 2016 race (which, of course, had a presidential election as well), to about 45 percent in 2016. That’s not some marginal change by a few evangelicals of conscience; that’s a powerful expression by a large share of Alabama’s electorate that political nonparticipation was better to them than the options they were offered.

Bottom line. Albert Mohler’s analysis of evangelical involvement in this election is correct, and Jonathan Merritt’s is wrong. About 75% of evangelical adults in Alabama chose not to vote yesterday. Tens of thousands of evangelicals would not vote for Doug Jones and could not vote for Roy Moore. They stayed home, and that made all the difference in this election.

Evangelicals had a decisive influence in this election—just not in the way that many commentators predicted. And certainly not in the way that Merritt alleges.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article included calculations based on 2.4 million evangelicals in Alabama. That number is actually 1.8 million adult evangelicals in Alabama. Other figures have been re-calculated to reflect that correction. HT: Alan Cross.

Who will stand for the children if their own parents won’t?

It is a shame that there is need for a video like the one above, but there is. Doctors are telling parents to put their gender-confused children on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapies which eventually render them infertile for life. Some are even recommending the surgical removal of functioning reproductive organs. All of these harmful therapies are in the service of a destructive, untested transgender ideology.

Who will stand for the children if the parents won’t?

Parents, don’t be taken-in by the erroneous, totalizing claims of transgender ideologues. Protect your child from destructive “therapies” that are irreversible and that cause permanent bodily damage. If you don’t stand, it is very unlikely that anyone else in the medical community will.

The Daily Signal has a transcript of the video above at the following link: “I’m a Pediatrician. Here’s What I Did When a Little Boy Patient Said He Was a Girl.”

The Lesser of Two Evils Does Not Vindicate Evil

Sohrab Ahmari has written a penetrating op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Supporting Roy Moore Is a Devil’s Bargain.” I agree with just about everything in this piece, but I want to highlight one part of it that evangelicals would do well to pay attention to.

Ahmari points out that many evangelical voters felt that the binary choice of the 2016 election meant that voting for a morally compromised candidate was necessary in order to preserve the Supreme Court and to advance the social conservative cause. And then Ahmari highlights this defense from evangelical Trump supporters:

Well, respond the Trumpian conservatives, our vote is just the opener. We will call our leaders’ moves as we see them — the good and the bad.

Except they don’t. They might take issue with this or that White House policy. But they rarely if ever call out the president’s moral degradations. And such criticism is the only kind that truly irritates Mr. Trump.

This point needs to be underlined. I understand why some evangelicals felt they had no choice but to support a compromised candidate because of the binary nature of the general election. I disagree with that calculation for reasons that I made well-known throughout 2015-2016. I still disagree with it. Having said that, I understand and am sympathetic with those who felt constrained by the poor alternatives before them. I disagree with the decision, but I get it. I really do.

But the choice to support a candidate that one knows is morally compromised also brings with it an obligation to be morally consistent. You still have to call balls and strikes with your morally compromised candidate. The lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting is not a vindication of the “lesser” evil. The so-called “lesser” evil is after all still evil. And evil doesn’t become good simply because someone else’s evil is perceived to be greater.

And that means that you cannot pretend that a politician’s obvious moral degradations are irrelevant. Nor can you turn a blind eye and pretend that they don’t exist. In short, you have to recognize evil as evil and cannot treat it as something else. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Nor does the lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting relieve the Christian of his obligation to speak and bear witness to truth. Why? Because such a Christian now has the burden of proof that his principles are not beholden to earthly partisan interests but to the eternal and unchanging word of God.

That means that when the president says or does something morally bankrupt, it is wrong for his supporters to pretend that he didn’t. It also means that when a party fields a morally compromised candidate, it is wrong for Christians in that party to turn a blind eye to the moral degradation in their midst.

The sins of another do not justify your own. Likewise, to call out the sins of the other political party while ignoring those in your own is rank hypocrisy. “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s” (Deut. 1:17).

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Recommended: “How to Live Under an Unqualified President” by John Piper

Steve Scalise returns to the House of Representatives for the first time since being gunned down

On June 14, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was gunned downed during a practice for a charity baseball game. Scalise’s security detail was able to take down the shooter and thereby to save the lives of many other congressmen.

Scalise nearly died as a result of his wounds, and his life hung in the balance through many subsequent surgeries. Today he returned to the House of Representatives for the first time since the shooting. He delivered an emotional speech that is worth your time to watch from start to finish. See above.

Albert Mohler comments on North Korea and Just War

On Friday’s episode of “The Briefing,” Albert Mohler offered comments on Just War theory and how it applies to the President’s authority to wage war against North Korea. Mohler argues,

The comments made by Dr. Robert Jeffress have engendered a lot of conversation. But without just looking at those comments let’s look at the larger questions and how Christians have fought through these issues consistent with Scripture throughout the centuries. In the first place we need to understand that the Bible is clear about the role of government. In Romans chapter 13, government, as established by God, is one of God’s gift to humanity in order to establish order in uphold justice and righteousness. is given what is described as the power of the sword. Inspired by the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 13 that the state, the government,

“does not hold the sword in vain.”

It has a purpose. It has a legitimate purpose. And among those purposes is the establishment and maintenance of justice and righteousness and the protection of human life. The most important responsibility of any government is the protection of the lives of its own citizens.

So the Scripture, not only in Romans 13, but in other passages — as we think of this in terms of biblical theology — makes clear that God has established government and given government rightful authority; not authority that’s a blank check, but a rightful, legitimate authority that must be exercised in accordance with right principles of justice and righteousness. When the pastor said that,

“God has given President Trump the authority to take out Kim Jong-Un,”

at this point what we need to consider is that indeed God has invested government with authority, the power of the sword is part of that authority, but it’s not an authority that comes with a blank check, it comes in a moral context…

With heavy hearts thoughtful and biblical Christians recognize that military action is sometimes absolutely called for, but it’s never called for for Christians to be bellicose, that is in any way to celebrate war. These are clearly very dangerous times and it calls forth the most careful Christian thinking. We can hope and pray that some years hence we’ll look back and just have to be reminded of the fact that this kind of moment had existed between United States and North Korea. We can hope that it comes down to that, rather than the alternative, which is almost too horrible to contemplate.

Read the rest or download audio here.

I pray to be a “mystic patriot”; I hope you do too.

I’m sick this Independence Day—which means I spent a good bit of time in bed reading yesterday. Among other things, I read G. K. Chesterton’s reflections on what it means to be a Christian patriot. If you have never read it, I encourage you to read Chesterton’s “The Flag of the World” in his classic work Orthodoxy.

Chesterton contends that love of one’s homeland is not like house-hunting—an experience in which you weigh the pros and cons of a place and choose accordingly.

A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.

We do not choose our homeland. It is something that we are born into. Thus our acceptance of our home is not like a house that we can leave when we tire of it. It is like the love we have for our family:

It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.

Love for family is not based on what is deserved. It is a loyalty that precedes any prior condition. Because love of country is not based on pros and cons—because it is unconditional love—true patriotism means that we must seek the nation’s good and flourishing no matter its condition. This love therefore becomes transformative.

True patriotism motivates reform and improvement because it is realistic about the nation’s shortcomings. A man may love his mother unconditionally, but that love does not mean that he is indifferent to her if she is a drunk. His love moves him to seek her welfare and improvement. His love does not simply affirm her sad condition. In the same way, the patriot loves his home not because she is perfect. He knows that she isn’t. The patriot’s love moves him to work for her welfare and improvement.

If Christian patriots love America as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, America may yet become fairer than Florence. Why? Because that kind of love seeks the nation’s perfection. In Chesterton’s words:

People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

This kind of patriotism does not close its eyes to the sins that bedevil the nation. One cannot excuse evil simply because it is being committed by the nation that we love and are loyal to. Chesterton says that it is evil to “defend the indefensible.” Such is the anti-patriot, and “he will not wash the world, but whitewash the world.”

The real challenge for the patriot is the same challenge that the Christian faces in his relationship to the world writ large:

One must somehow find a way of loving the world without trusting it; somehow one must love the world without being worldly.

This analogy is instructive, and it reveals an irony that may lead us toward the best kind of patriotism. After all, the Bible tells us that God loves the world while telling us not to.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

How can these two expressions be reconciled? They reveal a love for the world that is good and a love for the world that is bad. The evil love is the kind that loves the world for its vices. The good love is that kind that seeks the world’s welfare and transformation.

Likewise, the good love of the world produces the best kind of patriotism—a love for the nation that works for its good and welfare. It’s a love that seeks the nation’s good and transformation even when the nation is wayward—in fact, precisely because she is wayward.

I think patriotism for the Christian will become more difficult in the days ahead. Our nation is wayward in so many ways. In many ways it is becoming more hostile to Christians. For that reason, our calling will be to love a nation that may very well not love us back. Our children may be called to love a nation that makes itself an enemy to the true faith. Nevertheless, the call to love the nation and not its vices endures for us and our children.

This is what Chesterton calls the “mystic patriotism”—the love for nation that is undeserved. It requires a love that is supernatural. Who is adequate for these things?

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:5-6).

This is the love that has been shed abroad in the hearts of God’s people, and we have been called for such a time as this.

Why should the state foreclose the possibility of a second opinion for Charlie Gard?

I had not planned on writing about the tragic case of the infant Charlie Gard. But I just completed a Twitter convo with Alistair Roberts about it that has changed my mind. If you are unfamiliar with Charlie Gard, here is the gist of his story:

For ten months, Charlie has been living in the intensive-care unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. In March, his doctors decided that there was nothing more they could do for him, and they recommended that his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, withdraw his ventilator. They refused, on the grounds that an untried experimental treatment was available in the United States. The hospital, in accordance with British law, applied to the courts to forestall further treatment. In April, the High Court found for the doctors and against the parents. In May, the Court of Appeal upheld the initial decision. In early June, the Supreme Court agreed. And this week, the European Court of Human Rights — the last court of jurisdiction — refused to intervene. Charlie’s parents have raised enough money from private donations to fund the experimental treatment, but the court decision prohibits his removal to the U.S. Whenever they see fit to do so, the doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital can now remove Charlie’s life support.

The bottom line is this. Charlie Gard’s parents wish to try an experimental treatment in the United States. It is perhaps a slim hope, but it is one nonetheless. Charlie’s doctors wish to remove his ventilator which will undoubtedly lead to his death. The courts have sided with the doctors. But in this case they are not only allowing the doctors to remove the ventilator, but they are also preventing the parents from pursuing a second opinion in the United States. And according to a video message released today (see above), they are not even allowing Charlie to go home for palliative care.

What are we to think about this? In his book Evangelical Ethics, John Jefferson Davis writes:

In certain cases of the newborn with disabilities, no known medical intervention can reverse a genuinely hopeless prognosis… Such cases are, however, quite infrequent, and should not be used as a rationalization for the deliberate neglect and abandonment of children with disabilities whose lives could be saved by available medical interventions (p. 177).

It seems to me that the last phrase of that last sentence is the relevant one to Charlie Gard’s case. There is an available treatment that his parents wish to pursue. Even if Charlie’s doctors are convinced that he cannot be helped, why would they foreclose the possibility of a second opinion in the United States? Moreover, why would the state prevent the parents from pursuing this option? I agree with Davis:

The proper practice of medicine should be guided by a life-affirming ethic in all cases… There is indeed a time to die, just as there is a time to be born (Eccl. 3:2), and modern medicine must acknowledge its own limitations. But the basic thrust of medicine should always be to choose life (Deut. 30:19), because all human life is sacred to God who made it (p. 177).

In Charlie Gard’s case, I am having difficulty seeing how a “life-affirming ethic” would foreclose the possibility of a second opinion against the parents’ wishes. Moreover, per the video above, the doctors are now denying the parents the opportunity to take Charlie home for palliative care. This is a difficult case, but not so difficult that the state should weigh-in with this kind of draconian limitation. Again, Davis writes:

The proper practice of medicine should be guided by a life-affirming ethic in all cases, even when the physician can only provide care and comfort to a patient–young or old–who is already in an irreversible process of dying. A medical practice informed by the spirit of Christ and love the neighbor will see as a primary end, to cure whenever possible, and always to provide care and comfort to all patients, both in their living and in their dying (p. 177).

There are certain boundaries that the state (and the doctors in this case) must not cross, but they seem to have gone far beyond them in the case of Charlie Gard. If the doctors have indeed concluded that there is nothing else to be done for Charlie, then why deny the final comforts his parents wish to offer him at home? If palliative care is indeed what they want, then why can’t Charlie go home?

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